Gearing up the next generation of EV technicians
The future is top of mind at St. Leonard’s Laurier Macdonald Career Centre of the English Montreal School Board. Not only are students prepped for a promising career in the various vocational programs offered, but the curriculum is also modernized to equip students with the professional skills they’ll need in their evolving fields.
Laurier Macdonald has developed a reputation as a vocational centre for welding and fitting, hairdressing, aesthetics and hair removal, and automobile mechanics. Electric Vehicle (EV) Mechanics has recently become the school’s latest offering, set to prepare the next generation of auto mechanics for a burgeoning industry.
“I find [the program] very interesting,” Dean Nicolopolous said.
The 22-year-old enrolled in EV Mechanics immediately after completing his Automobile Mechanics Diploma of Vocational Studies (DVS). “It’s something that I feel is beneficial to me and a lot of other guys here who want to advance in the trade because that’s where it’s going.”
EV Department Head Giovanni Pietracupa set out with a vision for the program years ago, after getting an electric vehicle of his own. With the help and expertise of teachers Nikolaos Marangos, Carlo Verardo, Francesco Di Tirro, Edward Mackay, and Babak Hashemian, they built up the EV Mechanics program from scratch. Marangos and Verardo taught the first cohort in January 2021.
“Everybody rolled up their sleeves,” Mr. Verardo said. “We gave it a shot and look – everything was painted, everyone chipped in putting the tools together, the lessons, the material.”
Electric vehicles have been around for more than 100 years but have only recently been gaining popularity. The Quebec government’s ban on gas-powered vehicles by 2035 is only going to further transform the automotive industry, including the professional skills needed to fix those vehicles.
Mr. Marangos says it’s the government’s communication on that policy that’s driving electrification forward. “They have a 2035 target. It’s very [close] to us, so everyone has to get trained.”
The Automobile Mechanics program is a prerequisite for EV Mechanics and is also offered at the Laurier Macdonald Career Centre. Students must first complete 1800 hours (120 credits) of course work, including a mandatory three-week internship. Students who successfully complete the program will earn their DVS and have all the relevant expertise one needs to work on gas-powered vehicles.
If studying full-time, the Automobile Mechanics DVS can be completed in about one and a half years. For the part-time stream, offered through evening classes, the program can be finished in 20 months. The job search is one of the credits students must earn in the program, requiring them to coordinate where they’ll complete their internship.
With many vehicles on the roads and at shops today being hybrids most of what the students learn in Automotive Mechanics remains applicable in EV Mechanics. Hybrid cars are more complicated to work on than gas-powered vehicles, according to Mr. Marangos. “[Hybrids] have an engine and all the peripherals of the engine plus the electrical motors,” he said.
Like many of the students enrolled in the EV Mechanics evening classes, Mr. Nicolopolous works during the day as a technician before going to school three nights a week. He says his being in the course makes him even more of an asset to his employers.
“[My employers] are enjoying it,” Mr. Nicolopolous said. “They’re like, ‘finally we have someone now who can help the certified techs that…have done the course.”
Boris Treiger can also speak to the value of investing in the 645 hours required to complete the EV Mechanics program. Mr. Treiger was asked to enroll in Laurier Macdonald’s first EV course and was among the cohort who graduated in January 2022.
With more than 20 years’ experience in the automotive industry, Mr. Treiger currently works at Toyota and says he sees more and more hybrid or electric vehicles being brought into the shop. “Every day you’re going to work on it.”
While the program does have an element of theory involved, much of the work is practical. People who finish the course will emerge with around 400 hours of hands-on experience with electric vehicles. The school’s shop comes equipped with all the most up-to-date tools and equipment, including several different models of cars to practice on.
Potential employers say it’s that experience that makes Laurier Macdonald graduates stand out from among the rest. Bruno Vizzaccaro’s family has been in the business since the 70s. Today, he continues to help run Autocare and he also acts as governing board chair at the school.
At Autocare garages, Laurier Macdonald students are given preference because of their exceptional performance. “They are much more structured and ready to work in the shops like we have,” Mr. Vizzaccaro says. “Their schools are outstanding, very well equipped. They have teachers who are extremely passionate people with experience.”
The teachers’ vast knowledge of their respective industries, positive attitudes, and humble teaching styles creates an enjoyable learning environment for all who step through the doors at Laurier Macdonald Career Centre.
For Mr. Nicolopolous, it’s the community at Laurier Macdonald that is his favourite part. “It’s honestly a good vibe,” he said. “They’re great [people], and you have fun with them. You get along great with the students, your classmates and also the administration, but for the most part it’s actually just a nice environment.”
Principal Anna Maria Borsellino wishes to extend a special thank you to the EMSB and the AEVS Department for their support in launching the new Electric Vehicle Mechanics program.
For more information about how to enroll, visit: https://lmaccareercentre.com
Please listen to this special EMSB Radio Report: https://soundcloud.com/englishmtlpodcasts/special-report-laurier-macdonald-career-centre-students-taking-career-opportunities-to-the-next-level
About the English Montreal School Board
With a youth and adult sector population of more than 35,000 students, the English Montreal School Board (EMSB) is the largest English public school board in Quebec. Established on July 1, 1998, when the province created new boards along linguistic lines, the EMSB network consists of 77 schools and centres. For more details, visit the EMSB website at www.emsb.qc.ca.